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The Poetry of Jack Spicer

Daniel Katz

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The first full-length critical study on Jack Spicer's work

In the years since his death from alcohol poisoning, San Francisco Renaissance poet Jack Spicer (1925-1965) has gradually come to be recognized as one of most intriguing, demanding, and rewarding of the so-called 'New American Poetry' poets who were first published in Donald Allen's historic anthology of that name.

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Introduction - “All is Not Well”
Chapter One - The Early Poetry: Cartography, Seriality, Time
Chapter Two - Correspondence and Admonition
Chapter Three - The Metasexual City: Politics, Nonsense, Poetry
Chapter Four - From Mythopoetics to Pragmatics: The Holy Grail and A Red Wheelbarrow
Chapter Five - The Poetry of Language and the Language of Poetry: Language and Book of Magazine Verse
Coda: 1958

About the Author

Daniel Katz is Professor of English and Comparative Literary Studies at the University of Warwick. He is the author of Saying I No More: Subjectivity and Consciousness in the Prose of Samuel Beckett, American Modernism’s Expatriate Scene: The Labour of Translation, and The Poetry of Jack Spicer.


This brilliant study of Jack Spicer’s poetry will be an essential companion for anyone reading his poems. Particularly impressive is the way Daniel Katz’s incisive close readings of the poems always respect both the intelligibility and the opacity of Spicer’s inventiveness. Katz convincingly demonstrates that Spicer’s intelligence, passion, dialogues with other poets, and questionings of the aesthetic make him a crucial modern American poet.

- Professor Peter Middleton

Daniel Katz's superb new study of Jack Spicer's poetry surveys and synthesizes pioneering work of earlier critics, even as it advances his own distinctive views about, for example, Spicer's development of epistolary and serial forms. Katz avoids the temptation to mask or resolve the contradictory nature of Spicer's poetics, thereby yielding a poet of greater scope and complexity. Acutely intelligent and elegantly written, Katz's book will be essential reading for the many readers discovering Spicer's poetry for the first time and for those aiming to advance the leading edge of Spicer studies.

- Professor Daniel Tiffany
"Katz’s book is thorough, thoughtful and brilliantly argued."
- NewStatesman
"Katz’s book is thorough, thoughtful and brilliantly argued … will help to assure Spicer the place he deserves alongside other major American poets born into the 1920s such as Frank O’Hara, Paul Blackburn, Robert Creeley and John Ashbery."
- Simon Smith, The New Statesman
... this is a focused study that elucidates some of the most important concepts and practices of Spicer’s poetry in five interconnected essays that deal with Spicer’s life and work in distinct, chronological periods.
- Stephan Delbos, BODY